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"The [Orthodox] Divine services are a blessed fount from which the heavenly Grace abundantly pours forth its gifts upon all those who serve the Lord in fullness of heart – gifts of mercy, peace, consolation, purification, sanctification, enlightenment, healing, renewal, and – what is most precious – the gift of worship, in Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion. "- St. John of Kronstadt, "Thoughts on the Divine Liturgy"
The first Christians believed that Jesus Christ knows the suffering of humankind, and chose to become one of us, to live and die with and for us, to save us. So do we.
The first Christians believed that when two or three gather together in His Name, Jesus Christ is present in the midst of them. So do we.
The first Christians believed that when they offered bread and wine for blessing by God, they shared together the true Body and true Blood of Jesus Christ. So do we.
... because we are the first Christians!
The Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ, the ancient Church established by Jesus Christ once, now, and for all ages, unchanged in Faith since the times of the Apostles. No one has ever needed to try to "reform" the Orthodox Church, because it never strayed from the true path of Christ. Nor do the Orthodox need to try to "rediscover" the Apostolic Church, because the Orthodox Church is today what it always has been for more than 2,000 continuous years: the Apostolic Church.
Services in this Orthodox Church may be very different than you are used to. We want you to feel comfortable and very welcome, joining with us in joyful worship. Here are a few things that may help “orient” you a bit to our services:
God is in this place!
We believe that in this church, we stand in the very presence of God, and that we join the saints and heavenly hosts in joy and prayer and worship. For that reason, we try to avoid “chit-chat” in church, but to stand with reverent awe and attention to God.
We don’t at all want to be unfriendly! We want to say “hello!” and to welcome you, and get to know you, and help you get to know us and about our Church – just not during the actual services in church.
During the services, please join with us in joyful and reverent prayer and worship. And after the services, please join us for coffee or tea and a bite to eat, where we can welcome you and try to get to know each other, and answer any questions you may have.
We are grateful to God for bringing you to visit us here online today -- we look forward to meeting you in person!
We Stand to Pray
In the Holy Scriptures, the typical posture of prayer was standing. Jesus said, “When ye stand, praying...” (Mark 11:25) The ancient Christian practice has always been standing to pray. Orthodox Christians traditionally hold fast to the ancient ways. By all means, those who are unable to stand may sit in chairs and benches provided.
The Sign of the Cross
Orthodox worship involves the whole person: the mind, the heart, the senses, the entire body. We engage our bodies in prayer as we make the Sign of the Cross as an expression of our faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and when at times we bow or make a prostration before God in repentance, humility, and worship.
Orthodox Christians do not worship icons! We worship God, and God alone. Many people will treat photographs of loved ones with special care, putting them in lovely frames, in a special place, etc.. It is not the paper photograph they honor, but the person in the photograph. “Icon” means “image,” and Orthodox Christians “venerate” (honor) the person represented in that image by bowing and even kissing the icon.
Jesus and his Apostles prayed in many different ways, sometimes privately, sometimes together. Jesus respected the Temple as his Father's house, and prayed and preached there. The services of the Temple included formal liturgical services composed of prayers that all present heard together and prayed together. The word, "liturgy" comes from a Greek word meaning "the work of the people", and it refers to people gathered together, praying with one mind and one heart. Many people do not realize that the first Christians regularly prayed together in liturgical prayer. The Apostles and many of the first Christians were Jews, and accustomed to praying in liturgical services in the Jewish Temple. St. James, for example, continued to pray in the Temple until he was martyred for Christ.
If you would like to do some further reading about Orthodox Christianity, the following books might be a good place to start. In the future Orthodoxy in America plans to host a much more extensive bibliography to showcase many different facets of Orthodoxy.
These books are easily available from major booksellers.
The Faith: Understanding Orthodox Christianity: An Orthodox Catechism. Regina Orthodox Press, 1997
For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy.
Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997
Ware, Timothy. (Metropolitan Kallistos)
The Orthodox Church: New Addition
New York: Penguin Books, 1993